Spanish Chestnut Castanea sativa


The Spanish chestnut is indigenous to southern Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa. As early as Roman times, however, it was introduced into more northerly regions, and later it was cultivated in monastery gardens by monks. Today, centuries-old specimens may be found in Great Britain and the whole of western and central Europe. The Spanish chestnut is often a large tree attaining a height of up to 30 metres with a trunk more than two metres in diameter. The oblong-lanceolate, boldly toothed leaves are ornamental. The flowers of both sexes are borne in 10 to 20-centimetrc-long, upright catkins, the male flowers in the upper part and female flowers in the lower part. They appear in late June-July and, by autumn, the female flowers develop into spiny burs bearing brownish nuts that are shed during October. The nuts, which are very tasty, are used by confectioners and also eaten roasted. The tree requires a mild climate and adequate moisture for good growth and a good nut harvest. It is sensitive to late spring and early autumn frosts, is intolerant of lime, and under forest conditions does well even in moderate shade. The high quality, durable wood is used to make furniture, barrels, fencing and also provides tannin.

Leaves: Alternate, leathery, oblong-lanceolate, 10—20 cm long, with serrate and bristle-tipped margins.

Flowers: Greenish-white, borne in upright catkins. Fruit: Brownish nut, measuring 2—3 cm, nearly flat on one side, borne 2 or 3 in each sharply spiny bur.